U.S. President Donald Trump has announced the venue of his second meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un scheduled to be held on Feb. 28 and 29: Vietnam’s capital city, Hanoi. Trump said Saturday in his Twitter account that his representatives agreed upon time and date for the second summit. “North Korea, under the leadership of Kim Jong Un, will become a great Economic Powerhouse. North Korea will become a different kind of Rocket – an Economic one!”
Chosen as the location of the second historic meeting, Hanoi will suggest a larger meaning for the summit. Vietnam was a longtime U.S. adversary, but transitioned to a cooperative partner by deciding to normalize bilateral relations. The country’s model based on the Doi Moi policy through which it achieved rapid economic development can also serve as a guide North Korea can refer to for the path it should take going forward. As Kim Jong Un reportedly plans to make a state visit to Vietnam, it is hoped that Pyongyang will be able to march towards a brighter future with its leader’s visit to Hanoi as a groundbreaking turning point.
The location has been finally decided, but talks for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula still seem to be up in the air. Following working-level talks in Pyongyang, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun said that he had “productive” discussions with his North Korean counterparts, but added, “We have some hard work to do.” The two sides apparently discussed their positions in detail, but were not able to reach a negotiating stage where they can exchange demands. With working-level talks to be continued next week, they should now start a race against time with the second summit just two weeks away.
What will make or break the Hanoi summit is an agreement it will produce. While the first summit in Singapore last year led to an agreement somewhat symbolic and vague, both sides are now aiming to present a roadmap toward denuclearization that includes Pyongyang’s concrete steps for its nuclear disarmament and Washington’s corresponding measures. For now, they seem to be focusing on the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear facilities and the U.S.’ corresponding measures. However, the agreement should include the permanent removal of North Korea’s nuclear materials, warheads, and missiles. Otherwise, we will end up making past mistakes yet again, merely settling on a nuclear freeze and exacerbating risks.
“(The goal will be to) have this perfect outcome moment where the last nuclear weapon leaves North Korea, the sanctions are lifted, the flag goes up in the embassy and the treaty is signed in the same hour,” Biegun had said before he left for Pyongyang. As such, the two sides at the Hanoi summit should produce a timetable that includes the complete dismantlement of the North’s nuclear arsenal, the normalization of bilateral ties, and the establishment of a peace regime. The upcoming summit should be the last event where the leaders meet with each other for show. It needs to be followed by the two sides’ continuous talks to review and assess the progress toward denuclearization.